Gum Disease

The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.”  Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy the gum attachment and supporting bone that holds your teeth in your mouth.  Periodontal diseases are far more common than the common cold:  90% of adults and 30% of children have some form of periodontal disease and 37% have severe forms of the disease.  You are far more likely to lose your teeth to periodontal disease than decay.  In fact, 60% of all adult tooth extractions are due to periodontal diseases.  They have also been linked to a number of medical problems.  The risk of developing heart disease, strokes and pre-term births may be significantly greater if you have a periodontal infection.  There are also increased risks for diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  Fortunately, periodontal diseases are preventable and treatable.

During your periodontal evaluation, we will determine whether or not you have periodontal disease.  This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.

A periodontal probe (small dental instrument) is gently used to measure the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and the gums.  The depth of a healthy sulcus measures three millimeters or less and does not bleed.  The periodontal probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters.  As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.

Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease.  Plaque and its toxic by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.

Periodontitis

Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar).  As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth.  Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus.  The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.

Advanced Periodontitis

The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament continue to be destroyed.  Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and may be lost.  Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.

Because periodontal diseases progress very slowly and usually without pain, they often escape early notice.  Traditional tests such as X-Rays, periodontal probing and bleeding only reveal problems after the damage has already occurred.  Because we care about you and your health, we are constantly attending continuing education courses to keep abreast of new research and techniques.

Treatment

Periodontal treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease.  Dr Kiel and  the dental hygienist will evaluate for periodontal disease and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Periodontal disease progresses as the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and gums gets filled with bacteria, plaque, and tartar, causing irritation to the surrounding tissues.  When these irritants remain in the pocket space, they can cause damage to the gums and eventually, the bone that supports the teeth.

If the disease is caught in the early stages of gingivitis, and no damage has been done, one to two regular cleanings will be recommended.  You will also be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene habits and having regular dental cleanings.

If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a special periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended.  When pockets persist after treatment, additional measures may be needed.

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